Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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Making the holidays happy for elders

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Making the holidays happy for elders
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The holidays are a time for family, friends and celebration. But for the elderly, it can be a time of stress and isolation. Tamara Lindstrom sat down with an expert to learn simple ways to connect with older family and friends during the holidays.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- With the holidays upon us once again, not everyone is feeling the warmth of the season.

"More than any other group, older people are likely to spend the holidays in isolation," said Rhoda Meador, director of the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Meador said there are simple things we can do to connect with elderly friends and relatives, and make the holidays less stressful for everyone.

It starts with putting yourself in an elder's shoes.

"Being able to think about what it's like from their perspective and make things a little more simple, a little more straightforward," Meador said.

Like opting for a smaller, quieter gathering.

"If you're experiencing hearing impairment or anxiety or dementia, large groups can be something that it might be a good idea to avoid, because that might cause concern on the part of the older person," Meador said. "And they just might not enjoy that as much as smaller, more intimate connections."

Take things like access into consideration for visitors with impaired mobility.

"Decorations, trees, those kinds of things that make it hard to move around in the rooms where we're interacting," Meador said.

And don't underestimate your older loved ones' ability to use technology to stay in touch. With new products making it easier than ever for everyone to use.

"It's really great for older people because they can access family pictures, keep up with family activities," Meador said.

Most importantly, Meador said, think about what you really want to get out of the holiday season.

"Sometimes I think we overwhelm ourselves with all the busy things we have to do when we would benefit a lot more from reaching out to someone that we care about. And it would make them happier as well," Meador said.

After all, with any luck, you'll be elderly someday, too.

There are many opportunities to volunteer or spend time with the elderly during the holidays. Meador recommends checking in with your local Office for the Aging to see where you can help.

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